We’re living in a historical transitional period for TV, as streaming services compete with traditional networks and cable/satellite channels for our entertainment dollar. As such, television has never been better, regardless of how it gets to us. Appropriately, my list of the year’s best shows consists of half network shows and half others, and kicks off with a streaming series.
After eight long episodes of Noah Hawley’s literally brain-teasing “Legion,” it’s a comparative relief to get back to the familiar footing of his first hit show, “Fargo” (10 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on FX), which launched its third season with a 90-minute premiere. The “X-Men” spinoff “Legion” asked viewers to follow the pathways of a mutant’s brain, but “Fargo” allows us to kick back and follow the creatively crazy connections between thick-accented folks in the north woods.
1. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Season 1, The CW) – In blending musical numbers, broad comedy and genuine character drama about a troubled 20-something, Rachel Bloom’s brainchild is the most ambitious show of the year. By doing all three of those things well (particularly the musical numbers, which are consistently clever and catchy in the way they explore Rebecca’s and other characters’ neuroses), it’s also the best show of the year. I’ll be following whatever Bloom does next, but I hope this series defies the low ratings and sticks around awhile, at least long enough for an official soundtrack release. (Here are my 10 favorite songs so far.)
Executive producer and lead writer Noah Hawley positions his chess pieces for another year of murder, crime-syndicate maneuvering and Minnes-ooh-ta accents and quirks in the premiere of “Fargo” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on FX) Season 2. This a brand-new story, but similar to the relationship between “Fear the Walking Dead” and its parent show, it is a prequel with loose connections to the original story. You won’t have to watch Season 1 in order to jump into Season 2 (however, you should watch Season 1 because it’s great).
The ax fell fairly lightly on TV shows at the end of last season, and as a result we have a nice selection of returning shows to choose from. Here are the six I’m most looking forward to, ranked in order of my anticipation for them:
Here are 10 movies, TV series, books and comics I’m looking forward to in 2015:
“Marvel’s Agent Carter” (TV show, Jan. 6, pictured) – While I’m not a huge fan of the Marvel movie franchise, I have found some things to like about the sort-of-Joss-Whedon-produced “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” This eight-episode ABC prequel has my interest because I’m a sucker for shows set in various decades before I was born – in this case, the 1940s, when the titular agent navigates sexism and supervillains.
1. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (Season 6, Netflix) – “The Clone Wars” saves the best for last with arcs delving into the Order 66 brainwashing, Palpatine’s manipulations to take over the galactic banking system, and Yoda’s surprising encounter with a dark avatar and his first communication with a beyond-the-grave Qui-Gon. Even the “Jar Jar in Love” arc works due to the Gungan’s odd-couple banter with Mace Windu. While Ahsoka is certainly missed in this straight-to-Netflix season, she nonetheless feels like the absent center of this canceled-too-soon series. We can only hope that the storylines will continue in books, comics or “Star Wars: Rebels.”
In this age of hook-laden, high-concept summer TV shows, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. “Fargo”(FX) maintained its momentum all the way through its first season, culminating in Tom Hanks’ son satisfyingly blowing away Billy Bob Thornton’s almost parodically vile Lorne Malvo. And it looks like “The Strain”(9 p.m. Central Sundays, FX) is in the process of solidifying its spot as a horror classic.